Virtual Record Treasury of Ireland


CIRCLE — which stands for "A Calendar of Irish Chancery Letters, c.1244–1509" — reconstructs the records of the Irish chancery destroyed in 1922. CIRCLE seeks to provide an accessible and accurate summary in English for letters issued by the Irish chancery between the reigns of Henry III and Henry VII. CIRCLE is interlinked with beautiful manuscript letters from the collections of the National Archives of Ireland, National Library of Ireland, Dublin City Archives and the Huntington Library, California.


All the original rolls of the Irish chancery were destroyed in 1922. CIRCLE was created by its principal editor, Dr Peter Crooks, and first launched in 2012, building upon nearly four decades of research at Trinity College, Dublin, by two other medieval historians: Professor A.J. Otway-Ruthven (d. 1989) and Dr Philomena Connolly (d. 2002).1

In several respects, CIRCLE was the inspiration and foundation collection for the ‘Beyond 2022’ project which created the Virtual Record Treasury of Ireland. 

CIRCLE 2.0 has now been fully upgraded and integrated into the data model of the Virtual Treasury. For the first time, the text of CIRCLE is presented in TEI, the international standard for encoding texts (Text Encoding Initiative TEI).

The principal primary source for the reconstruction of Irish chancery letters is a Latin calendar published by the Irish Record Commissioners in 1828 under the title: Rotulorum patentium et clausorum cancellariae Hiberniae calendarium, Hen. II–Hen. VII, ed. Edward Tresham (Dublin, 1828). This 1828 calendar is referred to throughout CIRCLE as RCH .

The CIRCLE texts are now also interlinked with the list of medieval chancery rolls in the Public Record Office of Ireland (PROI) in 1922 available at PROI C 1/91/a 

The resource has been further enhanced by interlinking the texts of CIRCLE with a wealth of original medieval manuscripts. This stunning image collection is made up of original letters or ‘engrossments’—that is, the actual letters that were issued by the chancery as opposed to the ‘enrolment’ which is the copy of the same letter on the chancery roll. These originals were not destroyed in 1922 because they were held in other archives, for instance in the collection of Ormond deeds now housed in the National Library of Ireland, the Pembroke Estate Papers now held by the National Archives of Ireland, and the charter collection of the city of Dublin at Dublin City Library and Archives. 

  • Dr Peter Crooks, Principal Editor of CIRCLE
  • Dr Áine Foley, Assistant Editor of CIRCLE
  • Dr Lynn Kilgallon, Research Fellow VRTI
  • Dr Éamonn Kenny, Senior Software Architect, VRTI
  • Jean-Philippe SanGiovanni, Editorial Assistant, CIRCLE
  • Dr Patrick McDonagh, Editorial Assistant, CIRCLE

What can I find here? 

  • Over 15,000 chancery letters translated into English by Dr Peter Crooks, Principal Editor of CIRCLE, now integrated into the Virtual Treasury data model and encoded in TEI
  • Full browsable hierarchy organised by reign of English monarch
  • Fully searchable resource
  • Digital version of 19th-century printed Latin calendar of Irish chancery rolls by the Irish Record Commission
  • Digital images of original chancery letters from the Middle Ages, including Ormond Deeds (National Library of Ireland) and Royal Charters of Dublin (Dublin City Library and Archives)
  • Digitised 19th-century facsimiles of chancery rolls and letters
  • Digitised manuscript transcriptions from the chancery rolls by John Lodge, Walter Harris and others

Tales from CIRCLE